Non-Fiction review: The Art of Steampunk

AUTHOR: ART DONOVAN

Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing
Reviewed by Leanne Tough

The Art of Steampunk, by Art Donovan, is the companion to the October 2009-February 2010 Steampunk convention held at the Oxford University Museum of the History of Science. It was the world’s first museum exhibition based on the art of Steampunk. The companion includes work from all eighteen international artists that exhibited at the event, as well as a foreword by Dr. Jim Bennett, the director of the museum, an introduction by Art Donovan, and an essay entitled “Steampunk 101” by G.D. Falksen.

The included written material is interesting, the essay by Falksen especially entertaining. It sets the scene for the main event, the artists to come. Although the essay suggests it is a form of ‘beginner’s guide’ it is entertaining enough for someone familiar with the genre to enjoy. Besides, if you’re anything like me, the first thing you want to do is flick straight to the art! Dr. Bennett’s work is accompanied by photos from the exhibition and really gives a feel for what they were trying to do and the atmosphere during the convention.

There is something for everyone here as far as the artwork is concerned. Donovan has achieved the task of bringing together an eclectic mix of art, from steampunk’d computers to steampunk dolls, model airships to timepieces and gasmasks. It is a fantastic collection. My only issue with the book might be that Donovan has introduced the book with a few too many pieces of his own work –which as far as I can discern were not included in the exhibition itself. The photos for the exhibition pieces are wonderful, some taken at the exhibition itself and some taken specifically for the book. All are wonderful quality, which is especially fantastic for the more detailed models displayed. My own favourites were that of Richard Nagy (because I can’t help being a computer geek) and Kris Kuski, whose models are beautifully crafted and exquisitely detailed which the photographer had captured well. The art pieces included are all simply wonderful, quirky and fun, accompanied by a little information about the artist(s).

The book overall is a coffee-table book. Something for people to flick through, something aesthetically pleasing, but equally engaging. I enjoy taking down my copy to show to guests, even for a quick glance when I’m in need of some inspiration for writing or sketching. I would, and have, recommended it to fellow Steampunks for the variety and quality inside.

The eighteen artists exhibited in the book are: Amanda Scrivener, Thomas Willeford, Cliff Overton, Daniel Proulx, Eric Freitas, Haruo Suekichi, Ian Crichton, James Richardson-Brown, Jesse Newhouse, Joey Marsocci, Jos de Vink, Kris Kuksi, Molly Friedrich, Richard Nagy, Stephane Halleux, Tom Banwell, and Vianney Halter.

Further information may be found at the book’s website: www.ArtofSteampunk.com

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One Response to “Non-Fiction review: The Art of Steampunk”

  1. Hi, Katie. It’s an honor to be reviewed in Steampunk Magazine. Thank you for your generous words 🙂

    Regarding the inclusion of extra works (including my own): Early on, we had the opportunity to enlarge the book and flesh out the works of all the artists. So I had them supply many additional pieces that were not included in the original Oxford exhibition and also have them write descriptions they felt were important to understanding their works. There was no real limit to the amount of images that they could include, as I left that choice to their own artistic discretion.

    My Best Regards and wishes for your continued success with Steampunk Magazine.

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